While Britain is still a nation of tea drinkers, with tea accounting for half of everything drunk at breakfast hot or cold, this could be slowly changing.

Tea volume sales have fallen year-on-year, down 3.1% [SymphonyIRI 52w/e 17 July]. This is a result of the ongoing shift in tastes towards drinking more coffee and a drop in promotional activity over the past year.

"Tea is heavily promotion-driven consumers have been trained to buy on promotion," says SymphonyIRI insight director Lilias Campbell. In 2008-9, tea was highly promoted and consumers stocked up.

However, this year, suppliers have not maintained that level of promotion, hampered as they were by steadily rising commodity prices in the second half of 2009 following disappointing harvests. As a result, value sales of black and green tea have risen 8.6% to £562.8m but volumes have fallen [SymphonyIRI].

Volume sales of all major tea brands, except Yorkshire Tea, which maintained its promotions, fell. In contrast, coffee has had a good year as consumers move away from tea. Instant and fresh coffee sales are up in value and volume, although record bean prices are having an impact there, too.

The popularity of fresh coffee, particularly among younger consumers, has driven sales of fresh coffee up 12% in value to £155.8m and 7.6% in volume, while instant grew by a more modest 4% to £628.8m and 2.4% in volume. Retail coffee sales have also benefited from consumers drinking at home, rather than in cafés, during the recession.

"The growth has been driven by weight of purchase existing drinkers are buying more," says Kevin Sinfield, brand manager at Taylors of Harrogate, which owns Yorkshire Tea and Taylors coffee.

Focus On Breakfast